Judd Apatow’s third-directed feature, Funny People, marks its tenth anniversary since being theatrically released ten years ago.
Funny People marks somewhat of a departure from Apatow’s earlier features. George Simmons (Adam Sandler) is more of a mature character than the leads in The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up. He doesn’t come off as the man-child in the earlier Apatow fare. Though to be fair, Simmons does act quite immature during the third act during a fight with Clarke (Eric Bana) over Laura (Leslie Mann).
Since the film has been out for over a decade, here’s a quick rundown of what happened. George Simmons returns to the world of stand-up comedy after being diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. The survival rate is under 10% so it makes since for him to reconnect with his loved ones, including ex-fiancée Laura. She’s now married to Clarke and has two children.
It’s the return to stand-up that sees George cross paths with Ira Wright (Seth Rogen). Ira shares an apartment with best friends Mark Taylor Jackson (Jason Schwartzman) and Leo (Jonah Hill). Mark is the lead on a sitcom, Yo Teach!, and Leo recurs on the series. Following a stand-up set, George ends up hiring Ira as his assistant. It may help that Ira is also a comedian but he gets the opportunity to open up for George on the road. One such opportunity is a MySpace performance. That aged rather well!
While the diagnosis allows for George and Laura to reconnect, one could have predicted the messiness with Clarke in the picture. There may be a world where the two end up back together but Apatow doesn’t want us to see it. It’s for the best. The only downside is that this leads to a falling out between George and Ira. They eventually make up as the camera starts to pan out–signaling the end credits.
Since the end of Freaks and Geeks, Apatow has worked with a number of the same people. This is covered during the documentary that premiered last year. While Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, and Leslie Mann return following Knocked Up, the biggest addition here is comedian Adam Sandler. Both Apatow and Sandler were roommates back in the day so the script has a way of playing into Sandler’s strengths. On the comedy front, there are a lot of comedians with cameos including Paul Reiser, Sarah Silverman, Norm MacDonald, etc. If you didn’t watch the first season of Parks and Recreation, the film would have served as your introduction to Aubrey Plaza.
If there’s one thing I love about Judd Apatow films on Blu-ray, it’s that they come stacked with bonus features. It should really come as no surprise that several of Sandler’s past stand-up comedy performances are included. In addition to this, we get extended scenes of the George Simmons filmography. To top everything off, there are several scenes that feature Jason Schwartzman’s Mark Taylor Jackson in Yo Teach! Among the students are future Eighth Grade writer-director Bo Burnham.
If there is one thing that shows how much Funny People has aged, it’s the use of MySpace during the James Taylor concert. One can only wonder how many friends Tom has some ten years later! This does show using social media in a movie can really date a film. Both platforms were around the same age when the film was under production. It’s not on Apatow to have been able to foresee the loss of MySpace’s popularity.
As far as the comedy throughout the film, there’s certainly some material that hasn’t aged well. I’m pretty sure I spotted one joke that could be defined as homophobic. This also speaks to how much Apatow has also grown as a filmmaker in the last decade. Some of the jokes that we hear in Funny People certainly wouldn’t be risked in 2019.
While the film moves with a brisk and entertaining pace, it’s also very long for a comedy. The unrated film runs just shy over two and a half hours. The comedy standard tends to be 90-100 minutes at most. There are two hour comedies but you don’t even feel the length by the time the film comes to an end. Despite the lengthy run time, Funny People gives us one of Adam Sandler’s best performances so I can’t complain.
DIRECTOR/SCREENWRITER: Judd Apatow
CAST: Adam Sandler, Seth Rogen, Leslie Mann, Eric Bana, Jonah Hill, Jason Schwartzman